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Sundowner winds prompt red flag fire warning in Santa Barbara

September 7, 2011 |  5:29 pm

A red flag warning has been issued for gusty sundowner winds that are expected to blow across mountain and canyon areas of Santa Barbara County, the National Weather Service said Wednesday afternoon.

The warning, which indicates critical fire conditions, is effective from 3 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. The agency is predicting north to northwest winds gusting up to 40 mph and relative humidity less than 10%.

"If fire ignition occurs," the weather service said, "there could be rapid spread of wildfire that could lead to a threat to life and property."

The sundowners have been the cause of numerous devastating fires along the region’s mountainous east-west coastline, bringing heavy Santa Ana-like winds around sunset.

The winds  can be  destructive, weather experts said, because of the violent clash of hot air from the Santa Ynez Mountains and the cool air of the Pacific Ocean.

The strongest winds initially will be in the foothills west of Santa Barbara, but are expected to shift to the Montecito Hills area by Thursday night. Temperatures will be from the 90s to 100 degrees, the weather service said.


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-- Robert J. Lopez